The commanding officer of the USS Annapolis, a Navy attack submarine, presented the Capital Gazette with a banner featuring the name of the boat to honor the newspaper after the June 28 attack on its newsroom.
Cmdr. John Witte and Chief of Boat Rich Garrison visited The Capital’s temporary offices Friday to present the gift — a brow skirt that typically adorns the walkway, or brow, from land to the boat.
Crew members of the USS Annapolis, including several United States Naval Academy alumni, signed the banner, writing messages of encouragement:
“A free press is the beating heart of that which we defend.”
“May you be overwhelmed with peace in due time.”
Witte wrote: “Stay strong! Your mission is important to all of us.”
He and other members of the crew had planned a visit to Annapolis before the Capital Gazette attack that left five employees dead. The crew had not visited the city in a while, and Witte thought it would be a good idea to see the city emblazoned on crew baseball hats.
But after a gunman blasted into the Bestgate Road offices and opened fire, the crew couldn’t let the tragedy “fade away,” Witte said. One of the chiefs came up with the idea to present the signed brow skirt.
“Part of this trip was about building ties with the city of Annapolis and we kind of talked about what you guys have been going through,” Witte said. “We wanted to express our support.”
The brow skirt is about 30 feet long and reads “USS Annapolis (SSN 760) Born Free~Hope To Die Free.” The latter is the boat’s motto. The official USS Annapolis badge bookends the words.
The USS Annapolis is a Los Angeles-class submarine, a type of nuclear-powered fast attack submarine. It’s home port is San Diego after it spent years in Groton, Connecticut. It was commissioned in 1992 and will deploy as part of the Pacific Fleet next year.
All of the USS Annapolis department heads — who lead engineering, operations, supply and weapons personnel — are Naval Academy graduates, Witte said.
“What’s happened does give the name (Annapolis) a different meaning, but it’s still a good place and we’re happy that you guys came,” Capital Gazette editor Rick Hutzell said.
The Capital is searching for new office space following the shooting. Hutzell quipped requirements would now include 4,000 square feet, internet connection and wall space for the banner.